Guest Opinion: My Experience As a Council Candidate for the Caserta Vacancy Was Negative Because of Mahan and Kolstad

By Dr. Mohammed Nadeem

Last month, I respectfully submitted my letter of interest for appointment to the vacant City Council seat.  With less than five months remaining on the term, all I wanted to do was my best — to serve Santa Clarans. Humility, plus an opportunity to heal and apply my judgment and common sense as best as I would, have been my operating principles.

On June 12, the Council had a chance to choose from over 20 total applicants and appoint any of the final five top-ranked candidates: Eversley Forte, Hosam Haggag, Suds Jain, Kevin Park, and myself — all qualified candidates who represent groups not currently represented on the council.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor, Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe, Councilmembers Debi Davis and Teresa O’Neill all were willing to vote to appoint a candidate.  And they voted for each of the final five candidates in succession. However, after several hours of interviews, questioning, and multiple rounds of ranking candidates, two council members, Patricia Mahan, and Pat Kolstad voted for none. I felt betrayed and disgusted by their petty and dirty politics. My time wasted.

The night of the Council interviews was the night of the end of Ramadan nightly prayer called “Khatam” at the Muslim Community Association (MCA) and not only I missed that, but I also missed the much-revered celebration with my family and friends.

Measure Q, passed in 2016 gave full authority to a Council supermajority to make appointments in the case of a vacancy. But Councilmembers Mahan and Kolstad wouldn’t even vote for a qualified candidate. It was uncivilized and appalling because the council had a chance to do the right thing and didn’t after seven hours of theatrics. Indeed it was not a fine example of democracy.

Over the years, as leaders of the City, we failed to address a demographic representation issue. With Hon. Judge Thomas Kuhnle’s CVRA decision pending with potentially $2-$3 million in costs to the City, and forced community outreach and a short timeline on a redistricting process, we find ourselves vulnerable because of self-inflicted wounds. Council Members Mahan and Kolstad could have potentially lessened the City’s financial burden and avoided this by making a good faith effort of filling the vacant council seat.

Mayor Gillmor recently said in an interview with the Mercury News [June 28] that: “The goal is to diversify our Council.” In hindsight, there was a significant opportunity to diversify the council, and two Council members blocked that from happening – with no compelling reasoning.

Now we face inevitable changes to our city’s election system without much notice or input from residents because of a tight District mapping schedule and even narrower November 2018 council candidate application and fundraising timeline.

As proud Santa Clarans, together we shall permanently improve the City’s fiscal health, image, and reputation.

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece was edited for length and clarity with the author’s approval.




  1. Pat Mahan and Pat Kolstad had ample opportunity at the beginning of the process that night to state openly that they had no intention of participating or voting. Doing so would have saved hours of time (and nerves, no doubt) for those residents who put themselves on the line to offer their services and apply for the short-term appointment. There’s a vast difference between losing the seat to another candidate, and losing it because two councilors purposely sabotage the process. Mahan’s speeches about letting citizens vote in November and leaving the disgraced Dominic Caserta’s seat open was deliberately misleading and completely ignored the fact that the city’s charter (voted on and approved by citizens) sanctions such appointments, as well as the fact that citizens would have the opportunity to vote on that seat anyway, come November. There was no disenfranchising the voters if someone had been appointed to the seat. As to the “majority block” on the council, aren’t there always “majority blocks”? Nor, in watching the video of the meeting, did I think Gillmor, Watanabe, Davis or O’Neill were “vicious” – they were forceful, certainly, but they said what needed to be said. Mahan and Kolstad consistently seem to be more interested in sticking it to their four fellow councilors than they are in governing the city. My sympathy is all with Dr. Nadeem and his fellow candidates for the time, energy, and effort that they wasted in applying for Caserta’s seat and getting dumped on by Mahan and Kolstad.

  2. We already have majority block on the council. 2 of the block are appointed. Why is it so important that we rush to have the council appoint it’s own members, it soon becomes a closed group who do not look after what is best for the city.
    Pat Mahan made it very clear that she thought the residents should decide who would govern. There was no surprise action by Pat Mahan.
    The only surprise was the vicious attack by Davis, Watanabe, and O’Neil. Pat K & Pat M voted their conscious. That is what you asked of them when they assumed office.
    Dr Nadeem made choices as to what he wanted, he would have felt the same had he not been picked. Had he listened at the previous council meeting he would have been aware of Ms Mahans position.

    • I totally disagree. What pat m and pat k are saying is we do not believe in appointing and let the seat remain vacant and the city suffer. Are you then willing to vote for a change to our constitution that there can never be an appointment bcos it is against ur understanding of democracy? This is hogwash for those who want to hide behind such moral curtains only to disrupt smooth running of our city. The result of their actions have brought us to the major disaster in forced redistricting.

  3. Esther maybe you like being ramroded to let the council pick some one but i want the vote in 5 mos. on the person i want

  4. This poor man missed an important religious observance and time with him family for nothing. Ditto for all the other candidates. The two councilmembers, Mahan and Kolstad, should be recalled.

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